(FiveNation.com)- A University of Kansas researcher was convicted last week of illegally concealing work he did for the Communist Chinese while employed at the university.
Jurors found Feng “Franklin” Tao guilty of three counts of wire fraud and one count of false statements for not disclosing that he was named to the Chinese talent program The Changjiang Professorship on conflict of interests forms for grant applications.
Tao was found not guilty on four related counts.
As part of the Changjiang Professorship, Tao traveled to China to establish a laboratory at Fuzhou University and recruit staff. However, Tao lied to the University of Kansas, saying he was in Germany, not China.
The prosecution described Tao’s actions as “an elaborate lie” to defraud the University of Kansas, the Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation.
However, the defense argued that Tao never formally accepted the job offer at Fuzhou University, was never paid for the work he did there, and did not violate the disclosure rules that were in place at the time.
Tao was arrested in 2019 as part of the Justice Department’s now-defunct “China Initiative” which was established in 2018 to crack down on China’s theft of trade secrets and economic espionage. The program was discontinued by the Biden Justice Department in February of this year.
After his arrest, Tao was suspended from his position at the university and barred from entering campus.
Tao, who moved to the United States from China in 2002, began working as a chemical and petroleum engineer at the University of Kansas’ Center for Environmentally-Beneficial Catalysis in 2014. The center conducts research on sustainable technology for the conservation of natural resources and energy.
Tao now faces up to twenty years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine for the wire fraud count, and up to ten years and another $250,000 on each of the program fraud counts.
After the mixed verdict, US District Judge Julie Robinson declined to schedule a sentencing date, instead asking the prosecution and defense to submit a series of briefs while she reviews the defense’s motion to dismiss.